Biology in Human Affairs

By Edward M. East; Walter V. Bingham et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter II


ONE of the most striking features of the evolution of culture is the sluggish conservatism of thought. This is true even of our very modern culture, which is doubtless the most rapidly changing the world has ever known. As Robert Briffault1 says: "We are living in a phase of evolution which is known as the twentieth century and stands for a certain achieved growth of the human mind. But the enormous majority of the human race do not belong to that phase at all . . . Twentieth century civilization is cluttered up with living fossils surviving from every barbaric phase of the past, and masquerading as twentieth century people because no attempt has yet been made to ensure that human beings shall wear modern minds as well as modern clothes, and every care has, on the contrary, been taken to provide them with superannuated misfits." Man changes his traditional conceptions of himself and the world with extreme reluctance. This is not entirely due to his stupidity, though the candid student of his tedious climb from animality to modernity finds convincing proof that man is far from being guided by a clear-sighted reason. When one observes that it took our human forebears some hundreds of thousands of years, even by conservative calculation, to emerge from the rough-stone age, and still additional thousands to discover the first use of metals, one

BRIFFAULT ROBERT, "Rational Evolution," The Macmillan Company, New York, 1930.


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